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Recently @ Squidco:

Zlatko Kaucic (w/ Evan Parker, Agusti Fernandez, Rafal Mazur, Lotte Anger, Artun Majewski, Phil Minton, Johannes Bauer): Diversity [5 CD BOX SET] (Not Two)

Slovenian percussionist Zlatko Kaucic reinforces the title of his "Diversity" box set over 5 CDs in a variety of solo, duo, trio and quartet setting, including some of the UK & Europe's finest improvisers--Evan Parker, Agusti Fernandez, Lotte Anker, Artur Majewski, Rafal Mazur, Phil Minton, and Johannes Bauer--an excellent example of his wide-ranging work as an improviser. ... Click to View


Roscoe Mitchell Orchestra: Littlefield Concert Hall Mills College (Wide Hive)

Roscoe Mitchell 25 Piece Orchestra Returns with an outstanding follow-up to it's 2017 release "Discussions", recorded in concert at the Littlefield Auditorium in Mills College, reworking earlier works that take advantages of Mitchell's systems designed to articulate and capitalize on the tensions between composition and improvisation; an impressive achievement. ... Click to View


Chicago Odense Ensemble: (El Paraiso Records)

In 2008 the Danish group Causa Sui of guitarist Jonas Munk and drummer Jakob Skott ventured to Chicago, meeting and setting up the studio session for this excellent electric jazz session in a 70's Miles mode, with cornetist Rob Mazurek, Tortoise members Jeff Parker and Dan Bitney. ... Click to View


Luc Ferrari: Music Promenade / Unheimlich Schon [VINYL] (Recollection GRM)

Two works from French composer Luc Ferrari: "Music Promenade" (1964-69) an electroacoustic work for four stand-alone tape recorders presenting a series of colliding realistic sounds and sonic images; and "Unheimlich Schon" (1971), a quiet work of Musique concrete with spoken work--"How does a young woman breathe when thinking about something else?" ... Click to View


Regis Lariviere Renouard: Contree [VINYL] (Recollection GRM)

Acousmatic compositions--works of sound having no relationship to concrete elements--from French composer Regis Renouard Lariviere, using bold sounds structures in three major works from 2002, 2010 & 2013, each exploring sonic environments affected by tone, timbre, time and pitch in fascinating and gripping ways; profoundly interesting and otherworldy. ... Click to View


Maja Ratkje S.K.: Sult (Rune Grammofon)

Starting with a pipe organ, adding metal tubes, PVC tubes, a wind machine, guitar strings, a bass string, a resin thread, metal and glass percussion and a bow, Maja SK Ratjke developed the instrument for a live performance in Jo Stromgren's ballet "Sult" ("Hunger"), taking the instrument to the studio for this extraordinarily interesting album of keys and song. ... Click to View


Surplus 1980 Collectiv Ensembl With G.W. Sok : Forget All This (Music a la Coque)

Surplus 1980 Collectiv Ensembl takes the current members of drummer Moe! Staiano's Surplus 1980 and associated musicians including Kyle Bruckmann, John Shiurba, Vicky Grossi, Paul Costuros, &c, with Dutch vocalist G.w. Sok from The Ex, in an album of avant post-punk rock works, sophisticated but determined and pointed music, an unusual hybrid of impressive styles. ... Click to View


Toyozumi / Countryman / Montes: Blue Incarnation (Improvisations for Kulintang) (ChapChap Records)

Also known as "Improvisations for Kulintang", this live album of energetic and informed free jazz occurred between legendary Japanese percussionist Sabu Toyozumi and Philippine-based saxophonist Rick Countryman in Dec 2018, with featured guest Tusa Montes performing on prepared Kulintang percussion, a set of horizontally laid gongs that add tympanic melody. ... Click to View


Magnus Granberg / Skogen: Nun, es wird nicht weit mehr gehn (Another Timbre)

Composer Magnus Granberg took influences from Schubert's song cycle "Die Winterreise", extracting tonal material, which he merged with rhythmic influences from medieval English folk music and a song by Dowland, merging them into a temporal framework for this large and subtle composition, executed by a setpet including Angharad Davies, Erik Carlsson, Henrik Olsson, d'incise, &c. ... Click to View


Angharad Davies / Rie Nakajima / Alice Purton: Dethick (Another Timbre)

Three free improvising women--Angharad Davies, Rie Nakajima, and Alice Purton--met in the church in the tiny hamlet of Dethick, near Matlock, Derbyshire, over the course of two days developing the ten pieces of this album using an impressive set of stringed and percussive instruments, objects, and mysterious sources to create these fascinating sonic evocations. ... Click to View


Klaus Lang / Golden Fur : Beissel (Another Timbre)

A collaboration between Austrian composer/organist Klaus Lang and the Golden Fur ensemble ofSamuel Dunscombe on clarinet, Judith Hamann on cello & James Rushford on viola & harmonium, reworking a hymn from 18th century composer Johann Conrad Beissel, using an algorithmic system to reinterpret the piece through orchestration, dynamic movement, harmonic density & harmonicity. ... Click to View


Julius Eastman / Apartment House: Femenine (Another Timbre)

A live recording of Julius Eastman's 1974 work "Femenine" performed by Apartment House led by cellist Anton Lukoszevieze with Simon Limbrick on vibraphone, Kerry Yong on piano, Mark Knoop on keyboard, Mira Benjamin on violin, and Gavin Morrison and Emma Williams on flute, an ecstatic and intricate work using a repeating figure contrasted with both asynchronous and complementing backgrounds. ... Click to View


Joshua Abrams And Natural Information Society: Mandatory Reality [2 CDs] (Eremite)

Two large hypnotic works and 2 shorter pieces from Chicago's Natural Information Society led by Joshua Abrams on gimbri in an eight-piece acoustic band with Lisa Alvarado on harmonium & gongs, Mikel Avery on tam-tam & gongs, Ben Boye on autoharp & piano, Hamid Drake on tabla & tar, Ben Lamar Gay on cornet, Nick Mazzarella on saxophone, and Jason Stein on bass clarinet. ... Click to View


Various Artists: An Anthology of Greek Experimental Electronic Music 1966-2016 [2 CDs] (Sub Rosa)

An anthology of contemporary Greek experimental composers focused primarily on works since the 1980s, attempting to map the breadth of approaches while delineating different understandings of what "Greek" or "experimental" may stand for, by means of zeroing in on the numerous, often overlapping, realities and micro-scenes that are associated with the former. ... Click to View


Various Artists: An Anthology of Greek Experimental Electronic Music 1966-2016 [2 LPs] (Sub Rosa)

An anthology of contemporary Greek experimental composers focused primarily on works since the 1980s, attempting to map the breadth of approaches while delineating different understandings of what "Greek" or "experimental" may stand for, by means of zeroing in on the numerous, often overlapping, realities and micro-scenes that are associated with the former. ... Click to View


Masing / Lin / Tallone / Rodrigues / Zek: Buratino (Creative Sources)

A quintet of strings, hurdy gurdy, and amplified objects from Elo Masing on violin, Ernesto Rodrigues on viola, Hui-Chun Lin on cello, Caroline Cecilia Tallone on hurdy gurdy, objects, and Ame Zek on 12 string guitar, objects, recording in the studio for this 5 part improvisation, the hurdy-gurdy adding sustained mystery to a balance of subdued and assertive interaction. ... Click to View


Wolfgang Schwabe / Hui-Chun Lin: 180818 (Creative Sources)

A unique pairing of strings from Berlin improviser Wolfgang Schwabe performing on the Guqin, or Qin, a plucked seven-string Chinese musical instrument of the zither family, and Hui-Chun Lin on cello and voice, finding common ground in instant compositions of exotic string figures plucked and bowed, with Hui-Chun Lin sometimes bringing emotional release in voice. ... Click to View


Dave Douglas: Showing Up / The Power of the Vote [7" VINYL] (Greenleaf Music)

2019 Record Store Day release, a 7" from trumpeter Dave Douglas in two different configurations: the lead track from his album "Engage" featuring guitarist Jeff Parker and cellist Tomeka Reid along with Anna Webber, Nick Dunston & Kate Gentile; and a B-Side from 2018's "Uplift" featuring Joe Lovano and Bill Laswell alongside Mary Halvorson, Julian Lage, and Ian Chang. ... Click to View


Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.: Invisible Eyes And Phantom Cathedral [VINYL] (Bam Balam Records)

One of the most significant Japanese psych bands, Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.'s official RSD release has a distinct Gong/Can feel about it, with the 2019 lineup of Kawabata Makoto: guitar, synthesizer, speed guru; Higashi Hiroshi: synthesizer, noodle god; Jyonson Tsu: vocal, guitar, bouzouki; Satoshima Nani: drums, another dimension; Wolf: bass, space & time. ... Click to View


Various Artists: 20 Jahre Inventionen VI (Edition Rz)

New Pricing April 2019: Recordings from the Berlin Inventionen Festivals for New Music 2005 and 2006 featuring compositions by Edgar Barroso ("ODD"); Mario Verandi ("Comme un jeu des images"); Paul Wilson ("Trhough the Rain"); Ricardo Climent ("Wallwoodpeckers"); Vladimir Djambazov ("The Secret Life of a Snare Drum"); and Ludger Brummer ("Glasharle"). ... Click to View


Paul Dunmall Sun Ship Quartet (Skidmore / Kjaer / Solberg / Wastell): John Coltrane 50Th Memorial Concert At Cafe Oto [2 CDs] (Confront)

A stellar line-up commemorateing the 50th anniversary of John Coltrane's passing, showcasing Paul Dunmall's blistering Coltrane-influenced quartet together with special guest, lifelong Coltrane devotee saxophonist Alan Skidmore, and also marking the premiere performance of the newly formed international trio of Julie Kjaer (DK), Mark Wastell (GB) and Stale Liavik Solberg (NOR). ... Click to View


Anthony Pateras : Collected Works Vol. II (2005-2018) (Immediata)

The second volume in composer and audio explorer Anthony Pateras' "Collected Works" series, a sturdy 5 CD box set assembling 26 collaborations and solo works that bridge experimental and contemporary compositional work investigating electro-acoustic orchestration, temporal hallucination and sound phenomena, a remarkably diverse and fascinating collection. ... Click to View


Biota: Fragment For Balance (Recommended Records)

From Mnemonist Orchestra to Biota, with 18 albums in total, the Colorado collective Biota presents its 11th album on ReR, taking 4 years to complete this genre-defying album of gorgeous abstraction through free improvisation and composition, absorbing styles and reflecting them in a filtered ray of melody & song using unusual instrumentation and arrangment; absolutely recommended ... Click to View


Jakob Ullmann : Femde Zeit Addendum 5 (Edition Rz)

Jakob Ullman's 5th solo work for piano is atypical for a piano performance, using electronic playback and requiring three assistants sustaining a soundscape to realize a concept of "gravity" that Ullman applies as laws in a conceptual soundscape modified by a series of abstract images, resulting in unexpected sonic environments, tones, timbres and momentum. ... Click to View


Turgut Ercetin (Ensemble Mosaik, Ensemble Apparat, Ensemble Adapter, Sonar Quartett): Panopticon Specularities (Edition Rz)

Istanbul composer Turgut Ercetin (Daad artists-in-Berlin 2016 award winner) completed his doctorate studies at Stanford University, developing works engaged with issues of sound as sonic entities dealing with time and space, here in a string quartet performed by Arditti Quartet, and a work for voice and live electronics performed by Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgar. ... Click to View


David Behrman: On the Other Ocean [VINYL] (Lovely Music)

In 1977 David Behrman programmed a Kim 1 microcomputer developed at Mills College to analyze the music performed by the duo of bassoonist Arthur Stidfole, flutist Maggi Payne; and then the solo work of cellist David Gibson; for each work, the Kim 1 following Behrman's instructions, becoming a virtual musician responding to and interacting with the playing of each setting. ... Click to View


Robert Ashley: Private Parts [VINYL] (Lovely Music)

A reissue of Robert Ashley's 1978 release "Private Parts", presenting an unvarnished exposition of the inner workings of a man's mind through narrative, read by Ashley over the piano & synth of "Blue" Gene Tyranny and tabla player Kris, as Ashley describes two lives in an abstract narrative of keen observation and inside jokes; baffling and spellbinding. ... Click to View


Jacob Wick: Feel [VINYL] (Thin Wrist)

The first vinyl solo release from Chicago/NY/Mexico City avant trumpeter Jacob Wick, whose work includes exploring the physical form of the trumpet itself as he uses extended techniques and circular breathing while he deconstructs the instrument during performance, creating unusual textures and timbres, here in two side-long profoudnly contemplative improvisations. ... Click to View


Phew / Oren Ambarchi / Jim O'Rourke: Patience Soup [VINYL] (Black Truffle)

Performing at Japan's Playhouse in the Kitakyushu Performing Arts Center in 2015, legendary Japanese underground vocalist Phew joins Oren Ambarchi on guitar and Jim O'Rourke on piano & synth for the two part "Patience Soup", Phew's extreme vocal technique and electronics a powerful foil to the rich sonic environments of frequent collaborators Ambarchi & O'Rourke. ... Click to View


Edith Steyer: Hoox And Add-ons (Creative Sources)

A reflection of the previous year's solo work from Berlin-based saxophonist and clarinetist Edith Steyer, a member of GEDOK, the Berliner Senat and Composers Orchestra Berlin, here using preparations and extended techniques to open new possibilities in improvisations, as she explored ethnomusicology, using repetitive figures influenced by tribal music. ... Click to View


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  Susie's Aria  

Drummer Susie Ibarra Premieres her First Opera


By Steve Smith
Photos by Kurt Gottschalk 2003-06-20

Susie Ibarra Ever since Susie Ibarra burst onto the international jazz scene in the early 1990s, the versatile young percussionist and composer has made it eminently clear that there is no boundary to her artistic vision, nor any assumption she was content to leave unchallenged. As a member of groups led by David S. Ware, William Parker and Matthew Shipp, Ibarra held her own among decidedly heavyweight company in a field still largely dominated by male performers. The ferocious energy and sinuous grace of her drumming cast aside any considerations of gender, as she quickly became a much-demanded collaborator for such leading maverick artists as Derek Bailey, John Zorn and Pauline Oliveros.

Ibarra stepped out on her own as a bandleader in 1999, asserting her growing confidence as a composer. Her fresh, original musical voice bears the influence of jazz, blues, contemporary composition, gamelan and the traditional music of her Philippine heritage. That voice has been manifested in a chamber music-influenced trio, a fiery mainstream jazz quartet and the hypnotically grooving Electric Kulintang project. At the same time, Ibarra has also been active in the free-improv trio Mephista, alongside pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and electronics performer Ikue Mori.

For most performers, the furious pace at which Ibarra's calendar fills up would prove more than sufficient. But for the last year, she was also hard at work on a project that any composer might find daunting, and one that most jazz-related artists would never consider tackling in the course of a career: The 32-year-old composer has just completed her first opera.

Based on a libretto by the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa, Shangri-La received its world premiere on June 14 at the Mill Hill Playhouse in Trenton, New Jersey, produced by Passage Theater Company. Despite its bucolic title, Shangri-La is a challenging work, taking as its subject matter three Western businessmen drawn into the sex trade in Thailand, and their inability to escape the situation in which they find themselves.

The two-hour chamber opera featured a nine-member cast with a traditional Thai vocalist, two sopranos, one mezzo-soprano, two tenors, a baritone and a bass-baritone. Noted composer Tania Leon led an ensemble that included regular Ibarra collaborators Craig Taborn on piano, Trevor Dunn on bass and Roberto J. Rodriguez on percussion, alongside flutist Thea Reynolds, violinists Meg Okura and Joyce Hammon, violist Carol Cook and cellist Egil Rostad. Ibarra herself did not perform in the piece, for which she supplied a through-composed score that still provides for a degree of improvisatory freedom from the soloists.

Perhaps the most obvious question is why Ibarra would be interested in composing an opera at all. Blame it on her youth: Opera played an important role in Ibarra's childhood. "My mother took me to the opera when I was a kid," she said, her voice animated by a breathless ebullience that colors a conversation generously punctuated by laughter. "She had season tickets. My father's not an opera fan, and my brothers and sisters didn't want to go. I was the youngest, so I would be the one going with her."

For Ibarra, who grew up in Seabrook, Texas, a small town located between Houston and Galveston, this meant seeing first-class performances at Houston Grand Opera, one of the nation's most renowned and ambitious companies. "I grew up seeing incredible productions at Houston Grand Opera. In a way, this project takes me back to my childhood, because I have all these memories of different classical operas."

It was partially that childhood familiarity that led Ibarra to sign onto the current project when Komunyakaa, who conceived Shangri-La, proposed it to her. A Trenton resident and Princeton University professor, Komunyakaa is widely revered for his rhythmic, almost reportorial style. Many of his works have touched on musical themes; one, the epic-length Testimony, based on the life and art of Charlie Parker, was adapted as an opera by Australian jazz composer and saxophonist Sandy Evans for broadcast by the Australian Radio Company in 1999, and staged by the Melbourne Festival at the Sydney Opera House in January of this year.

Ibarra first met Komunyakaa in 1997, and felt an immediate affinity with the Louisiana-born poet. She accompanied him in several readings, and played behind him on Herido, a vibrant, bluesy session Komunyakaa co-led with Dallas-based trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez, which was issued by 8th Harmonic Breakdown in 2001. Despite her youthful passion for mainstream operatic lore, however, what attracted Ibarra most to Komunyakaa's project was its thoroughly contemporary subject matter - a refreshing anomaly in a contemporary opera scene still predominately mired in the reheated verismo of recent pieces like Therese Raquin, Little Women and A View from the Bridge.

"Yusef originally had the idea [for the opera] from a magazine article he came upon," Ibarra said. "It mentioned how British and European businessmen were going over to Thailand on sex tours, and how they were committing suicide and never coming back. It's set in Bangkok, but it touches on things that happen in a lot of countries, not just Southeast Asia. This stuff goes on in Cuba, it goes on in Eastern Europe, it happens pretty much everywhere. It's a story about paradise and hell-and how paradise can turn into hell-and it also touches on the AIDS epidemic, which is out of control in the sex trade."

The main character in Shangri-La is John Wong, "a Chinese-American metaphysical detective from San Francisco who is hired to go to Bangkok to investigate an embezzlement scheme," according to Ibarra. The three western businessman are Paul, a middle-aged African-American Vietnam veteran, Eddie, a troubled younger man, and David, the sleazy drug smuggler who is actually guilty of the crime Wong is investigating. Alee is a waitress who has a sideline in translating letters into English. Other characters include three women, Noe, Mana and Pidang, and the Barker, who runs the club. The cast may be unconventional, but the drama that results from their intersection is certainly operatic in scope.

"As musicians, we live with music and sound," Ibarra said. "We write songs, not characters. But writers live with these characters. So I've been living with these characters, and it's been really cool to experience that. Living with these characters for such a long time, they become real, like they're right behind you. It really is fun."

Though it may initially seem far-fetched to imagine an opera written by an avant-garde jazz drummer, for anyone who knows Ibarra's own recordings, it doesn't take a giant leap of imagination to understand why Komunyakaa sensed that she might be up to the challenge. Much of the music she has composed for her trio - particularly the current lineup that features Taborn and violinist Jennifer Choi - combines the rigor and transparency of chamber music with an unmistakable sense of narrative drama.

Increasingly recognized for her work as a composer, Ibarra was recently commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution to compose Lakbay, an extended suite for her trio that was premiered in December at the Freer Gallery in Washington, DC, in conjunction with an exhibition of photography by Filipino American artist Ricardo Alvarado. Ibarra has been tapped to write two new works for the Kronos Quartet (she will also perform in one of them), and she is also scoring two forthcoming documentariesby Chinese filmmaker Yan Jin.

Still, while Ibarra is not the first jazz composer to take a crack at opera,there have been few predecessors to whom she could turn for inspiration. The best known, of course, is pianist Anthony Davis, whose first opera, X, based on the life of Malcolm X, was produced to widespread acclaim in Philadelphia and New York in 1986. (It's notable, perhaps, that Davis-like his fellow improvisor Ibarra-was drawn to a contemporary subject for operatic treatment.) Davis has since composed three further operas: Under the Double Moon, a science fiction work; Tania, based on the kidnapping of Patty Hearst; and Amistad, detailing the historic slave-ship revolt and subsequent trial.

Other jazz composers have turned to more archetypal allegories for their operatic subjects, such as Leroy Jenkins's Mother of Three Sons, successfully staged by the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company at Houston Grand Opera and elsewhere, and Anthony Braxton's Trillium R: Shala Fears for the Poor, critically lambasted after its New York premiere. Julius Hemphill employed a still more idiosyncratic approach in his Long Tongues: A Saxophone Opera, abstaining from using singers altogether. The one thing that unites all of these disparate works, unfortunately, is that none has found a place in the standard repertoire and only three (X, Tania, Trillium R) have been recorded, making it nearly impossible for a young artist like Ibarra to hear and learn from them.

Instead, Ibarra immersed herself in contemporary opera scores and recordings. She cites György Ligeti's dark, surreal Le Grande Macabre as a particular favorite, owing in part to its near-improvisatory freedom of expression. Ibarra admits to having been a bit overwhelmed initially by the notion of composing a work of such scale, particularly in light of her own daunting schedule. "I was intimidated by the fact that it could be quite long!" she said. "To me, time was of the essence. But you just have to break it down, and you just do it-like anything, you just begin.The libretto was written pretty quickly, and I find Yusef's words very musical, so it was really easy for me to write with them."

When she finally began to compose Shangri-La in earnest, the music that poured forth reflected her own personality and that of her collaborator, rather than slavishly imitating any particular past master. "Whatever you do, it's going to sound like you," Ibarra says. "There's an influence of Thai music, both traditional percussion and the classical court style. There's some gong music. And there's definitely a blues influence, because I feel that Yusef's writing is so heavily influenced by the blues. It's really kind of an interpretation of his words."

Given the difficulties and expense involved in mounting operatic productions, it's far too soon to tell what the ultimate fate of Shangri-La will be. Ibarra's prognosis is upbeat, however; Passage Theatre hopes to mount a full-scale production of the work, and presenters in New York City and elsewhere have indicated their interest. Meanwhile, emboldened by the experience of creating the work, Ibarra eagerly envisions an ongoing working relationship with Komunyakaa.

"In an age of specialization, people just concentrate in their own medium," she says. "It used to be that artists were collaborating all the time. We've developed this great collaboration, and we have a lot of other ideas. We work well in this medium, and we get the chance to talk about a lot of important things that I think need to be talked about."



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Recent Selections @ Squidco:


Roscoe Mitchell
Orchestra:
Littlefield Concert Hall
Mills College
(Wide Hive)



Zlatko Kaucic
(w/ Evan Parker,
Agusti Fernandez,
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Lotte Anger,
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Maja Ratkje S.K.:
Sult
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Chicago Odense Ensemble:

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Anthony Pateras:
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